Trump is Bluffing about Attacking North Korea in 2018

by Jeffrey Lewis
December 28, 2017

The following is an excerpt from an article originally published on

I don’t know if Donald Trump is going to be making any New Year’s resolutions for 2018, but here’s a thought: How about not threatening to start a nuclear war with North Korea?

This past year, after all, is ending with a flurry of war talk. On Dec. 20, the Daily Telegraph published an article quoting a current and two former U.S. officials claiming that the Trump administration was considering a military strike on North Korea. Now, the Telegraph is not, as Jim Hacker would tell you, the most reliable British tabloid. But two days later, Olivier Knox of Yahoo News published a strangely similar story with slightly different sourcing — two current and one former official. In both cases, a former official used the same description to describe a strike similar to the cruise missile attack on Syria — giving Pyongyang a “bloody nose.”


It seems likely that Trump officials are, in fact, talking about a military strike in which the United States would target a symbolic location in North Korea to retaliate for a missile test, much as the administration targeted an airfield in Syria following a chemical weapons use.

Still, I think the Trumpkins are bluffing. They are, to borrow a Soviet phrase, just trying to “rattle the pots and pans,” hoping to frighten North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and China’s Xi Jinping. Of course, they may still get us all killed.

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